RWANDANS from within, the Diaspora and friends of Rwanda meet, today, in the Netherlands for the seventh edition of Rwanda Day.
The day is a convergence that seeks to cultivate core national values, among others.
President Paul Kagame is expected to grace the event, and deliver a keynote address before an audience of more than 4,000 Rwandans and friends of Rwanda.
An interactive discussion will then follow.
Excitement was high in the country and in the Diaspora community this week as people, especially business leaders and entrepreneurs, made arrangements to travel to the Netherlands.
From Indiana, US, Alice Cyusa, president of the Rwanda Global Diaspora Network (RDGN), said Rwanda Day is extremely important to Rwanda and Rwandan communities abroad.
“It is the one stop showcase of Rwandan culture, business, tourism and, more importantly, unity abroad. It is exactly that, a Rwanda Day abroad. It is a celebration of being Rwandan, of how far we have come, of our resilience,” Cyusa told Saturday Times.
“For Rwandans abroad, it is even more important. Not many governments work so hard to reach out to their people abroad, it is a clear sign of the respect and importance the Rwandan government gives to us, especially President Kagame, who has honoured each and every Rwanda Day since its inception.”
Cyusa, who attended previous events in Chicago, Boston and Atlanta in the US, and Toronto in Canada, emphasised that Rwanda Day is an opportunity for Rwandans, especially the Diaspora, to better understand the country’s developmental goals and programmes, as well as the role the Rwandan Diaspora can play in achievement of those goals.
“Business and investment opportunities and incentives are explained to the Rwandan Diaspora Community. The Rwandan Community Abroad members get also an opportunity to contribute in the debate on policy issues back home,” Cyusa said.
During Rwanda Day, the Rwandan Diaspora has a unique opportunity to, among others, meet and discuss with the President; network; celebrate “our Rwandaness,” and reconnect with their cultural roots to strengthen national unity; while Rwandan businessmen also meet potential partners.
Apart from portraying the real image of the country, Rwanda Day also gives the Diaspora community a chance to put questions to senior government officials and get clarifications on issues back home.
The event will see Rwandans in the Diaspora reaffirm their core national value of Agaciro (dignity), celebrate the country’s progress and discuss ways of being part of its socio-economic transformation, organisers say.
Robert Kayinamura, an official at the Rwandan embassy in The Hague, said, through an audio-visual exhibition showcasing Rwanda’s journey, participants will also have the opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of the programmes that continue to shape the country.
“It’s an opportunity to interact and exchange views on the country and how one can contribute to the vision of a modern, unified and prosperous nation,” Kayinamura said.
Rwanda’s Ambassador to the Netherlands, Jean Pierre Karabaranga, said the gathering serves as a time to reconnect with Rwanda’s history, learn about the Rwanda of today and be an integral part of defining Rwanda’s future.
“As Rwandans gather in the Netherlands, we recognise the progress made; but most importantly, we gather to renew our commitment and redouble our efforts to building a prosperous country,” Amb. Karabaranga said in a statement yesterday.
The envoy said Rwanda’s success depends on Rwandans living at home and abroad working together and partnering with friends of Rwanda to achieve set goals, adding that through Rwanda Day, the Rwandan community abroad gets to understand its role in shaping the country’s future.
In the Netherlands, Rwandan banks and real estate businesses will provide the chance for Rwandans living abroad to learn about financial services, including sending back remittances, and investing in the property market. A selection of companies showcasing Rwandan products will also attend, according to the government statement.
Young professionals and entrepreneurs from Rwanda and abroad were expected to discuss the country’s development goals, business environment and opportunities available for those seeking to be part of a country on the move.
Ahead of today’s event, the Embassy of Rwanda in The Hague and the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), in cooperation with the Netherlands Africa Business Council, yesterday, organised the Rwanda-Netherlands Business Matchmaking Event.
Kayinamura said chief executives and other representatives of about 300 Rwandan companies had expressed special interest in meeting the Dutch private sector at yesterday’s meeting in Amsterdam.
“The link between Rwandans abroad and the motherland is extremely important, that’s why so many of us attend Rwanda Day, to meet with many different representatives of Rwandan society, from the President, to ministers and business owners, to singers, outstanding youth and athletes. It is the best opportunity to get updates about our country, ask questions and watch all kinds of presentations,” Cyusa said.
Theophile Rwigimba, the chairperson of Rwandan communities in Canada, said Rwanda Day is a special time for the Rwandan Diaspora, particularly for the hosts.
“It is an occasion, on one hand for members of the Diaspora to receive first-hand information on the progress made in their country and, on another hand, for them to see what would be their contribution to this progress. It is a meeting that benefits both parties,” Rwigimba said.
He added that the Day’s events help boost remittances to the country.
In 2010, before inception of Rwanda Day, remittances stood at around $65 million, annually, but almost doubled, to $110 million in 2011.
Thierry Gatete, a lawyer who has travelled to attend the latest edition told Saturday Times that “looking at the big picture,” overtime, Rwanda Day will pay off in a big way.
While in transit, in Belgium, Gatete said: “Rwanda Day has both a physical and mental intent. It seeks to affect minds; decolonise. Often, people tend to think about the physical, such as money, and forget what it means for the Diaspora and their hosts.
“It is a paradigm shift,” he added.
For Cyusa, the first edition of Rwanda Day, held in Chicago in June 2011, still stirs up pleasant memories. To her, the image of thousands of happy Rwandans, speaking Kinyarwanda, dancing and celebrating in a foreign land is overwhelming.
“Rwanda Day in Chicago impressed me most. Imagine, for the first time, being at a venue filled with more than 4,000 Rwandans, in the USA. All speaking Kinyarwanda, hugging the Rwandan way, every single step you are bumping into a Rwandan and they smile at you, you hug each other even if you don’t know each other,” Cyusa said.
During Rwanda Day in Boston, in September 2012, she recalls a moment when she was in an elevator with other hotel guests, and some asked her, “So, what’s happening? Where are you guys from?”
“I said we were from Rwanda and we were there to welcome our President. They were very surprised, and impressed. One gentleman said, ‘do you all know each other?’ I said, not necessarily. He looked at me and said, ‘then how come you are all hugging each other?’ I said, well, that’s how we do it back home.”
Appeal for Rwanda Day Asia, Africa
As Rwanda Day continues and expands, Cyusa said, “we ask President Kagame to consider Rwanda Day Asia, or Rwanda Day Africa.”
“It would make sense to host one in an emerging country like China, where many Rwandans live, or in a developed country like Singapore, which represents where Rwanda is aspiring to be,” she said.
“We would like to thank President Kagame, for his leadership, for giving us, Rwandans living abroad, a chance and an opportunity to be a part of our country’s rebuilding efforts. We truly consider our Diaspora as the Sixth Province of our Rwanda; we are Intara y’Agaciro (Dignity Province) as our young members recently renamed our province.”